Friday, May 12, 2017

The Rise of Hash Oil Extraction Explosions Across the United States

The Rise of Hash Oil Extraction Explosions
The national media is increasingly reporting on cases of explosions due to the production of honey oil, also known as hash oil or dabs, across the country. The production process uses butane, and explosions from honey oil production have blown walls out, moved houses off foundations, and caused people severe burns.   
While most home labs are small, there are reports of bulk operations in which hundreds of cans of butane can be on-site. Any size lab is a serious danger; first responders should familiarize themselves with the signs of such labs: butane canisters, Pyrex dishes, marijuana, coffee filters, and an extraction vessel that could either be glass or a PVC pipe combination that resembles a pipe bomb.

It seems that every week or so there is a gas explosion inside somebody’s home or inside a car or a bathroom that have been caused during the extraction of oils from marihuana plants.  Just two days ago, another such explosion occurred in Tigard, Oregon.  In that explosion, two men are in serious condition after police say they blew up a gas station explosion in Tigard early Sunday morning while trying to make hash oil with marijuana and butane. 

The explosion caused significant damage to the 76 gas station bathroom on Greenburg Road, and fire extended through a false ceiling.  The two Tigard men who were making hash oil inside bathroom initially tried to put out the fire themselves and they suffered severe burns; they are listed in serious condition.

Investigators determined that a heat gun used to evaporate the butane caused the fire.  Hash oil, also known as honey oil or shatter, is heated and inhaled in what's known as "dabbing”, a popular form of smoking marijuana.  To make it, highly flammable butane or another suitable solvent such as isopropyl alcohol, is poured through marijuana to extract the cannabinoids, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and other chemicals from the plant matter.  
 Hash oil is typically made by packing the castoff leaves and stems of pot plants into a pipe and pouring the highly flammable butane through it.  The solvent is then evaporated, leaving a golden color sticky residue that resembles oil or honey.  Of course these butane vapors linger in the room where the extraction took place.  Only some pretty stupid people would attempt such a process inside an unventilated room.

It typically doesn't take much during the extraction process to cause an explosion, especially in an unventilated small space such as bathroom or inside a car.  Anything from static electricity to a wall socket can spark a potentially deadly explosion.  Or, the flame from the heat gun to subsequently cook the oil can explode the lingering butane fumes.

In another major case that occurred last year, seven Seattle, WA people accused of causing explosions while extracting hash oil from marijuana were charged Tuesday in federal court.  The explosions -- which happened in Bellevue, Kirkland, Seattle and Puyallup -- injured a number of bystanders and caused thousands of dollars in damage. 
Without proper ventilation, butane fumes can linger. All it takes is a spark of static electricity to ignite a room.  Former Bellevue Mayor Nan Campbell was hospitalized for a broken pelvis she suffered trying to escape the flames.  She later died following complications after her hospitalization, according to prosecutors.  Two other apartment residents suffered shattered bones as they had to jump from their upper level apartments.
These deadly explosions are reckless and preventable acts.  Unfortunately, as marijuana cultivation activities increase, explosions will continue.  This is a dangerous threat. 

FEMA Alert on the Fire and Explosion Hazards
Last year, FEMA posted an alert in its emergency services bulletin titled “Hash Oil Explosions Increasing Across US.” Alongside more quotidian warnings of cyber terrorism and industrial vapor clouds, it described an uptick in explosions at apartments and hotel rooms involving “a process using butane to extract and concentrate compounds from marijuana,” destructive incidents that FEMA warned could even be mistaken for pipe bomb or meth lab explosions.

A clear, golden brown cannabis derivative also known as honey oil, shatter, wax and “earwax,” butane hash oil (BHO) has some distinct advantages over traditional marijuana: It has very little smell, either in its solid form or when vaporized, is very portable, and can achieve intense effects with small amounts.  A pound of marijuana typically generates 1/10 to 1/15 of a pound of hash oil.
BHO has been gaining in popularity in the past three years.  But as its popularity grows, so do the number of hash oil enthusiasts eager to attempt their own homebrew BHO, a process that usually involves the highly flammable solvent butane or isopropyl alcohol.  The result in a number of cases, as the FEMA bulletin notes, has been “fires and explosions [that] have blown out windowswalls, and caused numerous burn injuries.”

Hash oil is typically produced by filling a cylindrical glass or stainless steel canister with pot (Bed Bath and Beyond’s metal turkey basters are a popular choice), and flooding the canister with a solvent — usually butane — that strips the plant matter of its cannabinoid-containing oils. 
The resulting mixture of psychotropic plant oil and chemicals is then purified to remove traces of the solvent. One common method of butane removal includes boiling it off in a hot water bath, while another involves the use of a vacuum pump and vacuum chamber to lower butane’s boiling point, pulling butane from the oil.

What makes it dangerous is not so much the extraction process itself, but rather the problem of improper butane ventilation.  Butane is highly flammable and it tends to sink, meaning that if you use it indoors or don’t ventilate well, you’ll run into serious trouble.  Let some butane puddle in your living room, throw in a thoughtless spark from a cigarette, stove, or — dare I suggest — bong hit, and suddenly your apartment is missing a wall.

That’s allegedly what happened in January, when three people were injured after a hash oil extraction gone wrong blew through the walls of a San Diego hotel.  A few months earlier, an Oregon man suffered burns in a similar explosion that blew out the windows in his apartment and sent him to the hospital. 
Although it’s perfectly possible to make hash oil safely, such explosions are the result of a relatively small number of hash oil producers who fail to take even the most basic precautions.  The number one precaution is to never make oil indoors.

Hash-oil operation suspected in fatal San Bernardino County explosion

First responders were on the scene of what was initially believed to be a gas explosion at a home in the community of Muscoy in San Bernardino County. The blast killed one person and left two others in critical condition.
Authorities who say they found significant amounts of marijuana and butane in the debris of a blown-up home believe a hash-oil operation may have caused a massive explosion that killed a man and injured two others.
Those inside the makeshift home may have been producing "butane honey oil" when it exploded, said Cindy Bachman, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.
Firefighters sifting through the ruins found the man's remains in what appeared to be a basement, she said.

The explosion occurred at 6 p.m. Wednesday in a home located in the rear of a property in the 3000 block of Gray Street in Muscoy.
Firefighters found a man outside the home with severe burns, according to the San Bernardino County Fire Department. A woman was partially covered by debris when firefighters found her.
She suffered a serious head injury as well as blunt-force trauma, fire officials said.
The basement area sustained significant damage during the blast, causing the poorly constructed home to collapsed into it.
"The blast was so significant that the freshly paved road in the front of the surrounding homes actually buckled in several places," the Fire Department said in a statement.
Firefighters first believed the explosion was caused by a gas leak, but later determined it stemmed from illegal drug activity.
"Butane honey oil” is a waxy substance that can produce a strong high when inhaled. It doesn't have the potent odor of marijuana.
Because hash oil has gained popularity, some beginners have attempted to make it in their homes. But that has resulted in several explosions, officials say.
Two men accused of operating a hash-oil extraction laboratory were burned in a similar explosion in March in the city of Commerce.
A suspected drug lab at a home in Malibu exploded in April, injuring one person, authorities said.

Suspected 'hash oil' lab explodes in Malibu home; 1 man burned

A suspected drug lab at a home in Malibu caught fire and exploded Tuesday, injuring one person who had to be transported to the hospital via helicopter, authorities said.
Firefighters responded to the home in the 1200 block of Encinal Canyon Road shortly before 6:15 p.m. to find it fully engulfed in flames, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Authorities later discovered the substance “honey oil” -- a type of marijuana oil -- at the residence, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Fray Lupian told KTLA-TV.
A 25-year-old man who was burned in the explosion and ensuing fire was airlifted to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center to be treated for his injuries, authorities said.
The man, who was not immediately identified, would likely be arrested on drug-related charges after recovering, Lupian said.

A hazardous materials crew was still at the scene shortly before 2 a.m. Wednesday, according to the fire department.
“Butane honey oil,” also called “wax,” has been a growing trend in the marijuana market, officials said. Dabs of it can be vaporized and inhaled without the smoke and pungent odor of marijuana, an act called “dabbing.” The method produces a stronger high even among those who have strong tolerance to cannabis.

The widespread popularity of the waxy substance has led many to attempt the extraction method, often resulting in injuries.
Two men suspected of operating what authorities said was a “butane honey oil extraction laboratory,” in which marijuana is turned into the "hash oil," were burned in a similar explosion last month in the city of Commerce.

One of several butane bottles located inside the home may have exploded and caused the fire, authorities said.
Earlier this month in Glendale, police reported that they busted a hash oil operation, saying that the potential for a large explosion at the lab was "huge."

Hash Oil Lab Explosion Destroys Apartment
Two people were severely burned in the explosion, according to sheriff's officials

Friday, Feb 21, 2014 • Updated at 6:07 AM PST
Two people were rushed to the hospital after a reported hash oil explosion in El Cajon. 
The San Miguel Fire District received calls about an explosion just after 2:30 p.m. in the 1400 block of Brabham Street. 
When they arrived, they found one apartment destroyed and several others damaged. Two apartment residents were severely burned and were taken to the hospital.
The San Diego Sheriff's Department said investigators found a hash oil lab had exploded. 
Residents of the apartment had to be evacuated for a time. 
Sheriff's deputies and fire officials remained on scene to investigate.

Two men injured in suspected 'hash oil' explosion in Commerce

Los Angeles County fire hazmat technician Terry Wilkinson surveys the damage from an explosion caused by a suspected drug manufacturing process in the city of Commerce. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Two men suffered burn-related injuries in a suspected hash oil explosion in the city of Commerce, authorities said.
Firefighters and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies responded around 8:10 p.m. to the 2300 block of Ayers Avenue regarding a call of a tree or transformer on fire, but when they arrived, they discovered that a home was ablaze.
The extent of the burn injuries suffered by the two men -- ages 18 and 21 -- were not immediately known.
It's the illegality of this stuff that leads idiots to try to make it in "secret" labs. legalize it, there's no more reason to hide it, and it'll be done safely, simply because nobody wants to blow themselves up if they can help it.
Arson investigators determined that the men -- who were not immediately identified -- had allegedly been operating a “butane honey oil extraction laboratory,” in which marijuana is turned into “hash oil” or “honey oil.”
One of several butane bottles located inside the home may have exploded and caused the fire, authorities said.

“Butane honey oil,” also called “wax,” has been a growing trend in the marijuana market.  Dabs of it can be vaporized and inhaled without the smoke and pungent odor of weed, an act called “dabbing.” The method produces a stronger high even among those who have strong tolerance to cannabis.
The widespread popularity of the waxy substance has led many to attempt the extraction method, often resulting in injuries.

In April, a 22-year-old man suffered second- and third-degree burns on his face and hands when an explosion tore through his home in Cottonwood.
Shasta County authorities told the Los Angeles Times the man was allegedly using butane to extract oil from marijuana leaves. At the time, it was the third explosion for the county in the last calendar year.
Authorities said the city of Commerce hash oil explosion caused about $300,000 in damage to the single-story home.
Narcotics-related charges are pending for the two men who remain hospitalized, the sheriff’s department said.
An investigation into the alleged drug lab remained ongoing.